The eyes of the horseracing world’s fans and socialites will be focused on the Vodacom Durban July on Saturday afternoon for the 124th edition of Africa’s Greatest Horseracing Event, following on television and live streaming instead of watching from the normally packed grandstands and marquee village at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse.
Forced to race ‘behind-closed-doors’ due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown regulations, just a handful of essential staff will be at the racecourse along with the trainers, jockeys, grooms and support staff for the ten race programme that will make up the most unusual running of the iconic event.
“Even through the war years, this event was never cancelled, and thanks to the positive interaction with government, we have been able to return horse-racing to active race meetings under very strict conditions and protocols,” said Gold Circle’s Event and Marketing Executive Steve Marshall.
“At a time when everyone is battling with the lockdown implications, we hope the 2020 Vodacom Durban July can provide an afternoon of entertainment that can serve as a beacon of hope as the country battles this pandemic,” he added.
The event has adapted to the reality of the lockdown by targeting the raceday at the ‘stay-at-home’ functions that will be organised in homes across the country on Saturday afternoon.
The racecard and traditional July Frenzy booklet have been digitised and are available to read on the event website.
Adding extra spice to the private Vodacom Durban July functions is the downloadable sweepstake form that makes it easy for friends to select a runner for the main race and run their own sweepstakes at home.
Online betting will be the order of the day, with internet and telephone betting set to cater for the annual betting surge around the year’s biggest horse race. Prominent local betting operators like Hollywoodbets and TabGold have also created innovative betting drive-through stations in the city to cater for punters keen to lay their bets in person.
Despite the lockdown regulations restricting public events and activities, betting on the Vodacom Durban July is nevertheless expected to be brisk, with more than R200 million predicted to be waged on the ten-race meeting.
Making it even more attractive for punters is the carryover of R2 million already in the Pick Six pool, which is expected to eventually reach around R15 million.
There is also a carryover of R1 million that will kick start the quartet pool that is probably also going to grow to around R15 million on Saturday.
Punters keen to see a fairy-tale ending to the main race that starts at 3:10pm on Saturday will be hoping that the Justin Snaith-trained Do It Again can complete an historic hat trick of back-to-back victories and race into the history books taking jockey Anton Marcus to a record sixth Vodacom Durban July win.
As betting heats up, support is pouring in for hot favourite Rainbow Bridge, along with Got The Greenlight, and another of Justin Snaith’s five runners Belgarion.
As eerie as the ‘behind-closed-doors’ Vodacom Durban July will be for the handful of essential staff on course, the digital audience will vault the iconic event to a massive global audience on Saturday afternoon.
The event can be watched on DSTV on channel 204 and 210 from 1pm while Tellytrack will provide extensive coverage on channel 239. Fans can also follow the raceday on the event website and social media platforms.
The 2020 Vodacom Durban July takes place at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse on Saturday 25 July. More information can be found at www.vodacomdurbanjuly.co.za
Photo: Getting to meet Camphoratus ahead of the Vodacom Durban July are models Zanele Kamwendo (left) wearing a Madelain Clark design and Demicca Zeev wearing a Hanrie Lues design. (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)